In just its third year of existence, NYC Popfest has evolved from a small convention of shy kids in cardigans to a highly influential, star-making enterprise. This four-day music festival was first organized in 2007 as a celebration of the oft-overlooked subgenre—and subculture—known as indie-pop. Held at hip venues like Cake Shop and Don Hill’s, NYC Popfest has gone on to welcome many of indie-pop’s most respected acts from across the country and across the pond. More than anything, though, the event has made its name as a showcase for the burgeoning local scene, including eventual top-tier Brooklyn buzz bands like Vivian Girls and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
"The Popfest is a great place to play for a young band, especially one that can’t afford to tour extensively," says Kip Berman, singer/guitarist for the aforementioned Pains of Being Pure at Heart. "It gives you a chance to play in front of a lot of people from all over the world, which is never a bad thing. Plus, most importantly, it’s just downright fun! You get to meet and see so many new bands and people—it’s a great event to be a part of."
The Pains won’t be playing this year (they’ll be touring the UK), but NYC Popfest is back and better than ever, featuring all that punk’s cuddlier cousin has to offer—jangly guitars, la la las and plenty of thrift store couture.
2009 NYC Popfest Preview:
May 14: Cake Shop
This year, day one of Popfest is all about the homegrown talent, with six up-and-coming New York indie bands taking the stage at Cake Shop. Headliners the Ballet, back from an extended hiatus, could very well be the next Popfest veterans to break into the big leagues. The band’s electro-chamber-pop sound and out-and-proud lyrics often recall the Hidden Cameras and early Magnetic Fields.
7pm: Knight School (NYC)
7:45pm: The Soft City (NYC)
8:30pm: Dream Bitches (NYC)
9:15pm: The Metric Mile (NYC)
10pm: My Teenage Stride (NYC)
11pm: The Ballet (NYC)
May 15: Don Hill’s
NYC Popfest moves to Don Hill’s on Friday for a high-energy night capped off by the always popular Mondo! Indiepop Dance Party. While the Smiths-inspired Finnish band Cats on Fire is back for its second straight Popfest, many of this night’s attendees might be more interested in catching the set by Liechtenstein—a retro, all-girl trio that some are calling Sweden’s answer to Brooklyn’s Vivian Girls.
8pm: Don Lennon (NYC)
8:45pm: The Tartans (Los Angeles)
10pm: Liechtenstein (Sweden)
11pm: Cats on Fire (Finland)
Post-show: Mondo! Indiepop Dance Party
with DJs Miss Modular, Dr Maz and Kevington
May 16: Cake Shop/The Bell House
Day three of the festival features nine bands playing two venues, with a little break in between for dinner. Cake Shop hosts the afternoon portion of the program, free of charge, with New York new wavers Strega headlining. Then the good times migrate to one of Brooklyn’s newest and most beautiful music locales, the Bell House. Boston twee trio Pants Yell! has regularly been one of NYC Popfest’s top attractions, but on this night, the bigger spotlight will be on the Radio Dept., one of the most critically acclaimed and manically beloved bands from pop hub Sweden. It’s been nearly four years since the Radio Dept. released their last LP, and they haven’t played the States since 2003, so anticipation is very high for this one.
3:15pm: Steve Goldberg and the Arch Enemies (Philadelphia)
4pm: Hidden Ghost Balloon Ship (Detroit)
4:45pm: The 1959 Hat Company (Toledo, OH)
5:30pm: Strega (NYC)
The Bell House
8pm: Computer Perfection (Detroit)
8:45pm: Eux Autres (San Francisco)
9:15pm: The Secret History (NYC)
10pm: Pants Yell! (Cambridge, MA)
11pm: The Radio Dept. (Sweden)
Post-show: NYC Indiepop Dance Party presented by Shirley Beans
May 17: Cake Shop
NYC Popfest always goes out with a bang, and this year, it’s a veritable battle royale of jingle-jangle goodness. Indie-pop devotees will be lining up for hugs with the relatively legendary and undeniably adorable Rose Melberg (formerly of Tiger Trap and the Softies), and Scandinavia shows off its street cred again with a close-out performance by Sweden’s supreme electro-pop nerds Suburban Kids with Biblical Names. The best thing about Sunday’s lineup, however, is the plethora of young American bands ready for and worthy of wider exposure. One example is Very Truly Yours, a lively quintet (think Heavenly meets Camera Obscura) that’s rarely publicized in their native Chicago but should find themselves the center of attention in the friendly environs of NYC Popfest.
3:30pm Boy Genius (NYC)
4:15pm The Smittens (Burlington, VT)
5pm Rose Melberg (Vancouver, BC)
5:45pm Afternoon Naps (Cleveland)
6:30pm A Faulty Chromosome (Austin, TX)
7:15pm The Drums (Kissimmee, FL)
8:00pm Very Truly Yours (Chicago)
8:45pm The Icicles (Grand Rapids, MI)
9:30pm Casper and the Cookies (Athens, GA)
10:15pm Burning Hearts (Finland)
11pm Suburban Kids With Biblical Names (Sweden)